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Moed Katan, 15

MOED KATAN 14, 15 - anonymously dedicated my an Ohev Torah and Marbitz Torah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.


QUESTION: The Gemara asks whether a Menudah (someone who has been placed in Niduy) is permitted to be with his wife.

What is the Gemara's question? The Gemara earlier clearly states that it is forbidden for anyone to go within four Amos of a Menudah, and this includes his wife! (RITVA and others)


(a) The RAN in Nedarim (8a) and other Rishonim say that the Gemara here (16a) tells us that it is possible for a person to be in Niduy in one place but not in another. The Gemara's question whether a Menudah may be with his wife applies only to such a case. A person was placed in Niduy in one city, but in his hometown he is not in Niduy. The Gemara is asking that when the person is out of the place in which he is a Menudah, is he prohibited to be with his wife or not? It could be that even when he is in his hometown, where he is not a Menudah and where people do not have to stay four Amos away from him, he might still be prohibited to be with his wife, since that is a Halachah relevant to the way *he* must act as a Menudah, and not to the way others must conduct themselves with him.

(b) The RAN (there) and RASHBA answer in the name of the RA'AVAD that a Menudah's wife is not required to stay away from him, because of the principle that "Ishto k'Gufo," one's wife is like his own body.

(c) The ROSH here writes that not only is his wife permitted to be in his presence, but even his children. He proves this from the incident of Rebbi Elazar ben Hurkenus (Sanhedrin 88a), whose son removed his Tefilin for him when he was in Niduy. The reason his family members may come within his four Amos is because Beis Din did not include his family members in the prohibition to go near him when they placed him in Niduy.

(d) The RITVA answers that even though everyone else must keep away from him, his wife does not have to. Moreover, even the other members of his household (not just his children) are allowed to approach him. This is part of the stipulation of the Niduy made by Beis Din, allowing him his primary needs (Nedarim 39a).

HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 334:4) says that he is permitted to be with his wife, like the Rosh (c) says. The REMA adds that some also permit him to be near the rest of his household (like the Ritva (d)).
QUESTIONS: The Gemara derives that an Avel is prohibited to be with his wife from the verses that describe the conduct of David ha'Melech when his infant son died. The verse says that after the child had died, "David comforted his wife Bas-Sheva, and he came to her and law with her" (Shmuel II 12:24). This implies that he was with his wife only after the Aveilus for his son ended, but during Aveilus he was prohibited to be with her.
(a) This proof that an Avel is prohibited to be with his wife is problematic. The verse says that "it happened on the seventh day that the child died" (ibid. 12:18). If the child was only seven days old when he died, then he has the status of a Nefel (stillborn), and there is no requirement of Aveilus for a (stillborn)! Thus, why does the Gemara even assume that David was observing Aveilus to begin with?

(b) Furthermore, we see in the verses that David clearly was not an Avel after his son died, because the verse says that when the child died, "David stood up from the floor, washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. He came to the house of Hashem and he bowed down. He came to his house, asked for food, and they served him food and he ate" (ibid. 12:20). How can we learn the Halachos of Aveilus from David ha'Melech if he was clearly not an Avel? (RADAK ibid.)

(a) The RADAK gives two approaches to answer the first question:
1. Chazal understood that when the verse says, "It happened on the seventh day that the child died," it does not mean that the child died on the seventh day of his life. Rather, it means that he died on the seventh day of his illness. He was older than thirty days, and thus his parents were obligated to observe Aveilus for him.

2. Even if the child was only seven days old as the verse implies, perhaps David was nevertheless obligated to observe Aveilus for him. The Gemara in Shabbos (136a) says that the reason one does not mourn for a Nefel is because the child was not yet completely formed. However, if one knew for certain that the child had been in gestation for full term, then one does mourn. David ha'Melech knew that the child was a full-term baby, because he had only been with Bas Sheva one time (Shmuel II 11:27).

(b) There are several approaches to answer the second question:
1. The RADAK suggests that David ha'Melech washed himself and changed his clothes *before* he became an Avel -- that is, after the child died but before he was buried, while he was still an Onen when the Halachos of Aveilus (according to some Rishonim) are not yet observed. The reason he washed during Aninus is because he wanted to go bow down to Hashem in the place of the Shechinah in order to fulfill the dictum, "One is required to bless Hashem for the bad just like one is one required to bless Hashem for the good" (Berachos 54a). He wanted to praise Hashem even on the occasion of the loss of his child, so he immediately went to the place of the Shechinah. Since it is not proper to go there dirty and disheveled (as David had been fasting and sitting on the ground for seven days while the child was sick), he needed to wash up and change his clothes.

This is also the explanation of the RITVA in our Sugya, as well as the RA'AVAD cited by the ROSH.

2. The RAN (Chidushei ha'Ran) answers that perhaps the laws of Aveilus apply differently to a king. A king is not permitted to disgrace himself publicly, and that is why David ha'Melech was permitted to wash and change his clothes. However, even a king is required to observe the Halachos of Aveilus that apply only in private, such as the prohibition of being with one's wife.

3. The RAN gives a second answer and says that perhaps David ha'Melech needed to wash himself not for pleasure, but in order to clean off the dirt from his body, since he had been sitting on the ground for seven days. It is permitted for an Avel to wash or change his clothes when he is not doing so for pleasure but because he has become dirty (as the Gemara implies on 24a).

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